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Feds order Apple and Google to hand over 10,000+ gun scope app users’ information

Rifle Scope (MaxPixel/Released)
September 06, 2019

The Department of Justice has ordered tech giants Apple and Google to turn over app information identifying the names and personal information of more than 10,000 users of a single gun scope app.

Forbes first uncovered a court order filed Thursday by the Department of Justice, which demands Apple and Google turn over user data it retains from the Obsidian 4 app, which has more than 10,000 downloads between the Apple Store and Google Play.

The DOJ decision was reportedly done by the request of its Immigration and Customs Enforcement department, as it investigates suspected violations of weapons export regulations. In particular, ICE is looking into the illegal export of scopes also manufactured by American Technologies Network.

If the companies comply with the order, it could potentially affect all of the app users, including the names and IP addresses of those with no criminal involvement.

Obsidian 4 is an app created by American Technologies Network Corp. that users can pair with their rifle scopes for calibration, video capturing, and even live streaming.

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Though the company itself is not being investigated in connection to the alleged crime, the court order describes an intercepted shipment of the company’s scopes, in violation of the International Traffic in Arms Regulation. These shipments did not hold the required import licenses when they were reportedly found in Hong Kong, Canada and The Netherlands.

A report published by the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium also claims the scopes in question had made it into the hands of Taliban fighters.

The government order, which Forbes apparently obtained before it was sealed, said in-part that the data request will help ICE find app users thought to be in violation of the laws.

“The manner in which the ATN Obsidian 4 application is paired with this scope manufactured by Company A supports the conclusion that the information requested herein will assist the government in identifying networks engaged in the unlawful export of this rifle scope,” the filing read.

Neither of Apple or Google has yet offered public comment on the case. The DOJ has also not offered public comment on the reported case.

It is not clear from reporting on the government’s now sealed order if there will be any narrowing of the request to only include suspects in the ICE investigation.

In comments to Forbes, privacy activist Edin Omanovic said the court order threatens the privacy of innocent users.

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Omanovic, the State Surveillance Program Lead for Privacy International said government requests “need to be based on suspicion and be particularized.”

Omanovic said the request in question fulfills neither parameter.

Tor Ekeland, a lawyer specializing in privacy cases, said the DOJ order amounted to a “fishing expedition.”

Ekeland warned the government may begin with a focus on one specific case but eventually use the overturned data to pursue other cases against unrelated app users.

The DOJ request does not yet appear to request data from other similar gun scope apps.